Last week, just before the launch of GE’s annual reports data visualization, I ran across news that GE had just shipped its 1000th GE90-115B jet engine, and I learned that the GE90-115B is super efficient. I will get to that more at the end of this post, but given the opportunity to quickly search through GE’s annual reports via the data visualization linked above, I thought I’d try to find out a bit more about GE’s historical involvement in jet engines and jet engine efficiency first.
Way back in 1952, GE noted that the most promising possible outgrowth of its defense assignments from that time was “applying jet propulsion to commercial aviation.” We have certainly seen that — GE has been supplying commercial aviation companies with jet engines for decades, as noted in some of its reports. Additionally, in the late 1960′s, GE’s data visualization shows us that the company was very focused on developing better commercial aviation engines. “Commercial aviation engines represent a major GE investment in future growth,” GE wrote in 1969.
What’s all this have to do with cleantech? Well, GE’s decades of research and development have led to tremendously more efficient jet engines. As the image above from a 2006 annual report implies, the aviation industry and air travel continue their growth around the world. In that same report, GE touted its GE90 jet engine and projected it would bring in $40 billion of revenue in the following 30 years. Why so optimistic? Let’s have a look….
GE’s GE90-115B jet engine, the 1000th of which was shipped a couple weeks ago, saves tons (millions of tons) of greenhouse gas emissions compared to its closest competitor when it is used in the Boeing 777. That widely used aircraft is 22% more fuel-efficient per seat with this jet engine in it. (Fun fact: it also has 50% more thrust than the rocket that took Alan Shephard to space.) Pretty green, eh? Looks like decades of research and development have paid off, not only for GE but for the whole world. And, as of 2011, GE reports that aviation “accounts for the largest share of GE’s research and development expenditures,” so I think we can expect to see a continued increase in jet engine efficiency.
Here’s more on that super efficient jet engine pictured and discussed above, in infographic format:
Jet engine images via GE data visualization